When the Coronavirus pandemic was declared in mid-March and a worldwide travel warning was issued, Helge Wengenroth first fell into a state of shock. “That was emotionally very intense,” recalled the owner of Reisecenter Neuenstadt.
Until the pandemic, the shop had been healthy: “We got into this economic imbalance completely through no fault of our own,” explained Wengenroth. The extent of COVID-19 is not comparable with other crises. Instead of bookings, cancelations are now piling up on the tables of travel agencies in the region.
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More than 500 trips to be canceled
Helge Wengenroth has been managing director of the Neuenstadt Travel Center since 1997. The lockdown and the travel warning meant a huge loss for Wengenroth and his eight employees. “As a travel agent, you live in winter from the bookings you make in summer, in summer you use the proceeds from the trips you book in winter,” explained the owner. Now, however, the team has to cancel over 500 trips and repay commissions in the five-figure range.
“We need support to make it through the crisis. Politicians are letting us down, they only see the big companies,” Wengenroth said annoyed. For months now, people have been working without pay, and the emergency aid from the state has only been sufficient for one month. The fear of a second lockdown is constantly present. “We cannot wait until the situation improves. We have to do something now.”
That is why they decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign, an online fundraising campaign. “We’ve written to our clients to donate on the website.” The campaign runs until July 26th, and so far we’ve raised around $11,300 (€10,000). “A share of the pot will go to us later, there will be bonuses for the customers,” explained Wengenroth.
Some customers have been waiting a long time for their money
In hours of work Petra Best and her colleagues from the travel agency MySkyline in Leingarten last year put together round trips for 2020. “It brings tears to your eyes when they are canceled with one click,” explained the travel agent. The cancelations are also piling up on her desk at the moment, with just one booking in between. “To reverse a round trip with many components such as rental car, flight and hotel is a heinous job.”
In addition, there are communication problems with the tour operators and the airlines because of the reimbursement of expenses. Because only when the airline has refunded the money to the tour operator does it go back to the travel agency and ultimately to the customer. Some would wait for months for their money. “The customers are waiting for their money and so of course they can’t rebook.”
The tour operators can hardly be reached for inquiries. With test trips, they are trying to take away the uncertainty of customers regarding corona rules at the airport, on the plane and in the hotels. In spite of all adversities Best sees something positive in the crisis. “The flight and travel offers have become too confusing. Perhaps this will help the market recover.”
New bookings are sporadic
Claus Böhm has been managing the Heilbronn travel agency Böhm since 1980. “It is a difficult time. Now you have to see how to get through it.” It is difficult to estimate how things will develop. He hopes that the situation will improve in the coming weeks. The regulars are encouraging, but bookings are still cautious. There are only a few new bookings. “Many are rebooking their trip to a different date. This is of course better for us than canceling.”
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First published in STIMME.de, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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